tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN July 3, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
happening now, breaking news, pruitt's appeal. cnn has learned that embattled epa administrator scott pruitt asked president trump to fire attorney general sessions and give him his job. clear manipulation. the republican chairman of the senate intelligence committee says that u.s. intelligence agencies were right about russian interference in the 2016 election. did the committee uncover more evidence of moscow's meddling? congressman cover-up. an investigation says that a lawmaker knew of allegations of college athletes and a team
doctor and ignored them. tonight, representative jim jordan is speaking out. dangerous rescue. daring attempts to get boys and a coach out of a cave where they've been trapped for almost 11 days. will rising water add to the urgency? wolf blitzer is off today. i'm jim acosta and you're in "the situation room." and we're following breaking news tonight about environmental protection agency chief scott pruitt facing more than a dozen federal ethics investigations. sources tell cnn that pruitt asked president trump directly to make him attorney general and fire jeff sessions. we'll talk about that and more with senator ed mar i can of the foreign relations committee. our correspondents, specialists and analysts standing by. but first cnn white house correspondent kaitlyn collins with more. what are you hearing?
>> reporter: jim, we are hearing more as the scandals pile up against the epa secretary about why it was that president trump floated the idea of replacing jeff sessions with him and letting him lead the justice department. that's because scott pruitt directly proposed that idea to donald trump earlier this spring. embattled epa secretary scott pruitt who's currently facing 14 federal investigations directly appealed to president trump this spring to fire attorney general jeff sessions and let him lead the department of justice instead. coming at a time when the president's frustration at sessions over the recusal from the russia investigation was at an all-time high. sources telling cnn that pruitt proposed making him the acting head of the doj for 210 days under the vacancies reform act. his plan after that -- return to
oklahoma and run for office. the president's aitds quickly shooting down the idea as his ethics scandals were piling up. trump standing by pruitt just last month. >> i'm not happy about certain things but he's done a fantastic job running the epa which is very overriding but i am not happy about it. >> reporter: this amid new allegations of pruitt's behavior. a cnn report revealing pruitt and his aides kept secret calendars and schedules to hide contentious meetings. an aide testifying before the house oversight committee that pruitt asked him to find pruitt's job at the republican govern nor's association. a "the washington post" report that pruitt asked assistants to put the hotel reservations on personal credit cards. all of this as the president is leading the search to replace justice anthony kennedy on the supreme court. the white house keeping the nation in suspense while teasing a prime time announcement.
the president said yesterday he's got two or three more to interview and then make a decision. we won't comment on the names. >> reporter: cnn confirmed trump spoke with four federal appeals courts judges and utah senator mike lee. as the search for a justice continues, the president on a tweet storm tuesday hitting harley-davidson claiming the company's 2018 decision to move some production overseas hurt its sales in 2017. but failing to note it's a decision the company made to avoid tariffs imposed by the european union in response to tariffs by the president on steel and aluminum. now, the white house didn't respond, jim, to these new revelations about these conversation between scott pruitt and the president but they did let us know that the president did interview three more potential nominees for the supreme court vacancy today bringing the total number of interviews up to seven. now, the president said he was only going to interview six or
sev seven people for the vacancy. jim? >> cnn's kaitlyn collins, thank you. also, the senate intelligence committee released a summary of the 16-month investigation and back it is assessment of the u.s. intelligence community which found that russia did interfere in the 2016 presidential race. cnn justice correspondent evan perez here with more. evan, the republican chairman of the committee backs the findings. >> reporter: this is a bipartisan finding that they have made and the big news here is that the senate intelligence committee saying that they believe that the intelligence community was right, that their judgment was sound when they said that vladimir putin and the russians were trying to help president donald trump win the election and hurt hillary clinton in the 2016 election. now, this shouldn't be that surprising. this is not -- should not be huge news but it is simply
because of what we have been dealing with over the last year and a half with republicans on the house and other parts of -- here in washington who have been trying to undermine those findings of the intelligence committee. i'll read a part of the report today in the report. since the publication of the intelligence community assessment further details have come to light that bolster this assessment. and it also says that analysts under no politically motivated pressure to reach a conclusion. this finding again a bipartisan finding from the senate intelligence committee to undermine the argument that you have been hearing from the white house, from the president and some of his allies on capitol hill that really what the intelligence community was doing was politically mote vatded, that it was not as sound a judgment as they have made it out to be. >> evan, you alluded this but how it does compare to the house intelligence committee's view and president trump's view? this is definitely opposed to
what you hear from president trump almost every day that this is a witch hunt. >> reporter: right, exactly. this undermines his talking point that this is a witch hunt and read you a part of the house found when they published their assessment of what the intelligence community findings were, quote, significant intelligence trade craft failings in the work of the intelligence community and they said the headline from their report was there was no collusion which is obviously something that the intelligence community was not looking to assess when it released its findings in early 2017, jim. we also know, of course, the president has been tweeting about this just in the past few days and he said, quote, russia continues to say that they had nothing to do with meddling in our election. it appears that the president is still not sure whether or not his intelligence community's findings are the ones that he should take. he's still buying the assessment been made by the russians and by
their allies. >> all right. cnn's evan perez, thank you for that. good reminder on all of this and more on this with democratic senator mar i can of massachusetts, member of the foreign relations committee. senator, thank you for joining us and happy fourth of july. a day early but happy fourth to you. >> thank you. same to you. >> let's get to first with the reaction to this report. what do you make of it? i assume you agree with the findings here that russia did, in fact, meddle in the 2016 election and notable, is it not, a bipartisan senate intelligence committee report saying, yes, the intelligence community was right about this? >> everything has been pointing in this direction since the end of 2016. every bit of evidence points towards the fact that putin was trying to compromise our election, that it was systematic, that it intended the try to help trump to win and to undermine hillary clinton. so all of that has been out there. what we have here today on a
bipartisan basis from richard burr and mark warner, bipartisan, is reaching the same conclusion. that there was, in fact, an orchestrated effort by the russian government, led by putin, in order to accomplish that goal of undermining the election. >> the president tries to undermine the intelligence community's findings every day calling it a witch hunt every other day. do you think that the report now that you have republicans on board in the senate agreeing with these findings, they have essentially said this over on the senate side all along but putting out a report solidifies that. will that help counter the narrative you hear from the president and often on fox news and among some house republicans that the findings can't be trusted? can you counter that narrative with this report? >> i think it's going to be an ongoing public relations battle. on the one hand, we will have inconvertible evidence put
together by the intelligence community and robert mueller, as well. on the other hand you will have fox news, you will have the white house pr apparatus trying to undermine mueller, undermine this report, as well, in an effort to muddle, confuse the american public. but i think that this one document, because it is bipartisan, because it has been put together over such a pain stakingly long period of time is now going to be given greater weight than any other report, any other set of conclusions which have been reached thus far and i think it harms the president in a very significant way. >> and the president tweeted just last week, russia continues to say they had nothing to do with muzzling in our election. evan perez reported this tweet. why does he take the word of vladimir putin over members of his own party, people in the intelligence community? what do you think is going on there? >> well, the president obviously
right from the get-go has said that he trusts putin, that he believes in -- takes him at his word and he continues to ignore his own intelligence community and all other obvious evidence that has been presented to him. and i think what it does is raises the question of whether or not he believes that that will undermine the legitimacy of his presidency. that it will raise further the questions of what did president trump know and when did he know it during that campaign with regard to russian attempts to talk to his campaign staff, that is donald trump's, and after the campaign to talk to people designated for employment inside of the white house. what did the president know and when did he know it? >> do you think he's undermining this despite the evidence because he has something to hide? is that what you think?
>> again, there's a certain -- the president protest it too much. as lind say graham said, others said, if you have nothing to hide, put it on the table. if the president is correct and there was no collusion, then it will go away. his constant protestations are what are raising the eyebrows i think of the american people. because ultimately he just keeps discounting obvious factual conclusions that have been reached by impartial authorities and here it's a bipartisan senate intelligence committee. >> and the report mentions that additional evidence has come in to the committee to further convince them of these findings. have you seen any of this additional evidence? what does it tell us? >> i have not seen it. this report was just issued but because it's richard burr and mark warner, i am sure that --
>> you trust it? >> i do trust it. i trust it because this was put together over a long period of time. much of this ultimately had to be negotiated between republican and democratic staffs. republican and democratic members. it would not have been put out this afternoon unless the facts were agreed to by both sides of the aisle. >> and i do want do ask you about the border. very quickly, the president's meeting with vladimir putin coming up in a couple of weeks in helsinki. do you think he's trying to exploit divisions in this country? do you lay this at the feet of vladimir putin almost in the way the intelligence committee does and the intelligence committee does in this report? they say that vladimir putin is behind this. do you think he's trying to exploit divisions in the country to this day? >> vladimir putin loves this domestic political squabble that we're in from the day that donald trump won. it just draws attention away
from putin's compromise of our elections. it draws attention away from the russian -- the putin annexation of crimea, draws attention away from the violations of the force agreement with an escalation in the deployment of russian nuclear weapons along the european border. it distracts the attention to the central security issues that the american people have a right to think that their president is pushing back on putden rather than buddying up to him and so it plays into the putin agenda all the way down the line. >> and i want to ask you about immigration because you were just down at the border. and i assume looking at some of the facilities down there, some of the families, some of the children detained and separated and so on. it's just a terrible humanitarian situation down there on american soil. what was your impression when you were down there? what did you take away from it?
>> the children and their parents are still separated. there is no plan to reunite these children. i.c.e. told me there's no plan. hhs told me there's no plan. it's their job. >> what do you mean there's no plan? >> there's no plan that has been given to them by the trump white house. in washington. down to those people working on the border as to how they are going to reunite these children with their parents. under the court order that was issued last tuesday, they only have until next tuesday to reunite the youngest children with their parents. >> do you think that's going to happen? >> i was there yesterday. they have no plan. they have no instructions from washington how to get it done. tomorrow's a holiday. we have a weekend coming up. so i'm not optimistic. at all about the trump administration's goal of meeting this court order to put the kids back together again with their parents. i mean, it is absolutely an a m
abomination and as late as yesterday leaving texas on the border have no plan that they could tell me would be used in order to put the kids back with their parents. it is absolutely morally unacceptable. these kids are clearly traumatized. trump has yet to give the order to put together the plan in order to unite them and it is just absolutely something that is each day goes by gnaws at the conscience of the country and celebrate the fourth of july tomorrow, independence, liberty and justice for all. we are not seeing this on our border. >> certainly would be good to get the families back together and the children with their parents and sounds like the white house is running out of time. senator, thank you for giving us your perspective on that and the firsthand account of the border. thank you. >> you're welcome. breaking news continues next. more on epa chief's appeal to the president to make him attorney general. plus the latest on efforts to rescue a dozen boyce and
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and we're following multiple breaking stories including revelation that embattled epa a administrat administrator pruitt appealed to president trump to fire attorney general sessions and let him run the department instead. let's bring in the experts. what do you make of this scott pruitt guy? always got to keep your eye on him in this town i guess. >> i am shocked that we are having this conversation right now. are you kidding me? under 14 federal investigations right now and what we know from the story from the excellent
reporting is that not only did pruitt say put me into this position and said so several times, what he was looking for was to then exit the position and then run for office in his home state of oklahoma. so whether that would be to run for govern nor or run for united states senate, who knows? right now. i'm not too surprised that scott pruitt did this. he seems to have a lot of moxie for someone fairly new to washington. >> abby, seems to me the president goes after the attorney general all the time and i guess you wouldn't be surprised that scott pruitt angling for his job and difficult for the president to fire jeff sessions and trigger a backlash of capitol hill. what do you make of this? >> we know that scott pruitt talked to the president in the past about sessions, that the president vented about sessions to pruitt. so they have had some kind of bizarre comradery over this other person even while pruitt
is under fire and tells me that pruitt feels very confident in his standing with the president. you talked to conservatives on the outside a lot of them, i would venture to say, most of them still support scott pruitt and they want him in the job talking to the president, they urge him to keep him there and pruitt is confident. asking the president for favors. and the president is listening. he's not gone yet which goes to show that he's more angry with jeff sessions over one mistake in his mind that he believes triggered other things than the litany of other issues that pruitt brought on to his white house. >> never forget the president likes jeff sessions at doj because of immigration. president likes pruitt at epa because of the environment and the issues aside, rebecca, i mean, apparently pruitt only serve in the position for i think 210 days due to the vacancies reform act. what do you make of the fact he's offering to serve for a short period of time? it sounds as if he's got a chess
board in the offices of the epa moving the pieces around. >> right. >> sounds like the house of cards epa edition or something. >> right. someone who watched one too many episodes of "house of cards," jim and appears to have been looking for an exit strategy, someone who was in potentially self preservation mode, maybe foreseeing the scandals to envelope his tenure at the epa or the next wrung on the ladder. it is possible that the two things aren't mutually exclusive in the case of scott pruitt who's been completely blind to the scandals that he's created as -- >> do you think scott pruitt to help out the president here? this is al truistic on his part trying to help out the president? do you think that scott pruitt could come in and fire bob mu mueller, for example? just as difficult i would think for him as it would be for jeff
sessions. >> jim, jim, jim, jim, jim. this -- tomorrow is independence day. it's not april fool's day. so the whole idea of scott pruitt as attorney general belongs a couple of months earlier. the two people who can do no wronger in the trump administration, both in the news today, one is scott pruitt because he is destroying the environment and trump is in favor of that and the other is vladimir putin. no matter how many people say the republicans in the senate judiciary committee, the republicans who run the intelligence agency, they all say that putin did his best to get donald trump elected but trump never acknowledges it. so both of them are in the news today. and, you know, they are the teflon men of this administration. i don't know. maybe he will be the attorney general. i mean -- this is how trump operations. >> stranger things have happened
and probably will. >> jim, i think it's critical. talking about support of an embattled cabinet official. in any other presidency, the person is gone. but what abby said about outside groups and conservatives happy with scott pruitt, they are and donald trump isn't getting rid of him. making leaps an bounds not able to make coming to terms of deregulating, you know, specific industries across the country. >> but also, remember -- >> go ahead, jeffrey. >> sorry. go ahead. no, please. >> i was going to say we got a response to the epa here to cnn. this is what the epa saying about the scott pruitt story. epa will not be commenting on anonymous sources who are working to distract americans from the trump administration's accomplishments on regulatory certainty andal stewardship. there you have it right there
touting what scott brings to the table. >> what we call a non denial denial. and you know, remember, even if scott pruitt became the attorney general for 210 days, what would the republicans in congress do? nothing. you know, poor old jeff flake come out and say this is terrible and the rest of them clear their throats but this is donald trump's party. he can do anything. and the republicans in congress will not protest. jeff flake not running for re-election. bob corker not running for re-election. everybody else will fall into line as they always do. >> that's another interesting element of this story is that here was scott pruitt floating to president trump you should b fire jeff sessions and here's with a toy do it and the president and the advisers said we'll take a pass and speaks a lot also to the president and the white house and at least clarity on this one issue that
they thought this was an outrageous idea. >> stand by. we'll talk about the other stories in a few minutes and as the epa's going after anonymous sources the president's tweeting about anonymous sources and "the washington post" accusing the "the washington post" of using aanonymous sources that don't exist and flags at half staff over at the white house after what happened in annapolis. where reporters were shot there. we can show you the live picture of the white house with the flag at half staff in memory of those journalists slain in maryland. but we're going to talk more about this in a moment including the republican-led senate intelligence committee's report backing up the u.s. intelligence community's the finding on russian election interference tan conclusion that it was ordered by vladimir putin. plus, later, prominent republican lawmaker fights allegations he knew about sexual abuse on a college wrestling team he helped coach.
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meeting that president trump will have with vladimir putin, it's really important that this is coming out because the president continues to doubt the conclusion of the intelligence community. interestingly it seems that a lot of his senior aides even while they privately will acknowledge that these conclusions are true, publicly they just don't want to talk about it because they know that it gets the president upset. but that's problematic because russia did this, according to the intelligence community. they're going to do it again in an election that's just months away and the president doesn't agree and when he is pressed on it, when his back is against the wall he doesn't want to talk about it. it's also important that this is bipartisan, critical it's bipartisan. the house broke down -- the house committee investigating this broke down badly and hard to see how there could be anything bipartisan come out of this. >> mark preston, huge differences of the house and what came out today out of the senate intelligence committee.
>> for all the criticism i lob at washington internally here day in and day out, you have to look at the united states senate and say, you know, thank god if not for. right? basically. they have done their best and tried to be bipart sisan on thi. did republicans do something that's not helpful to president trump? released the report before he sits down with vladimir putin. if they were protecting him -- >> right before the fourth of july. >> they could have held it until after the week meeting with vladimir putin, as wellment bottom line and the crazy world of white noise, i hate to say this. i think it's important to see the united states senate issue this report today but in the grand scheme of things and is it going to change people's opinion? absolutely not. >> jeffrey toobin, a person's opinion likely not to change is president trump's. he's taking vladimir putin's word for it over the intelligence committee and in
the senate. >> as i said vladimir putin can do no wrong in donald trump's eyes and, you know, one of the useful ways i think of thinking about the trump administration is asking how it looks 20 years from now, 50 years from now as we have this complete consensus that the russian government interfered in the 2016 election, in very consequential and intentional ways and everybody knows it. and the president of the united states has not only denied it but he stopped any efforts to do anything about it in response. you know, i would disagree with mark somewhat. it's good of an effort of telling the truth of what happened but what are the republicans in congress doing? passing any laws? hardening our election technology? are they doing anything? no. they're not because they're afraid of offending donald trump. that is the guiding principle of today's republican party. >> rebecca, we have an election
coming up in four months. >> right. >> it sounds as if the administration is not ready. they're still doubting what the intelligence community is saying and it says in this intelligence committee report that, yes, there are efforts being made right now to sow discord and potentially meddle in the upcoming midterms. what happens if they're meddle with again by the russians? what happens then? >> you would think, jim, that the president would shoulder the blame for that because he made a decision not to direct u.s. officials to try to intervene, to try to push back. our u.s. intelligence community, didn't direct them to take action in advance of what we consider all but certain russian aggression in this election and of course in 2020, as well. so you would have to think that there would be perhaps political consequences for the president and certainly that congress would be compelled to act. congress did appropriate funds for states to use in this election but they're only just
getting that money and really going to be difficult for them to put it into place in time. >> this report is not done yet. okay? this is the first iteration of this report. >> important point to make, mark. thank you very much. coming up, new and disturbing allegations of a patrol innocent republican congressman. did jim jordan turn a blind eye of sexual abuse allegations when he was a wrestling coach? a rescue effort of a flooded cave. how long will they have to wait? starting now, everyone gets the plan they want. mom gets the unlimited she needs, dad gets the unlimited he needs, the kids get the unlimited they need. go mix and match! (scattered applause) wow. (man) yeah. sounds awesome. (vo) one family can now get different unlimited plans, starting at $40 per line on the network you deserve.
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there's more breaking news following. republican congressman jim jordan top is denying a report he ignored allegations of sexual abuse as a wrestling coach at ohio state university. cnn's jeanne casarez is working the story for us. house speaker paul ryan called the accusations, quote, serious. >> reporter: well, congressman jim jordan was an assistant wrestling coach during the years that dr. richard strauss team doctor for the athletics at ohio state university allegedly sexually molested student male athletes. well, the university has launched an independent investigation into dr. richard strauss who actually died in fwooif but he was the team physician from 1981 through '95. affiliated with the university for 20 years. and that takes us to the
wrestling department because michael disabato is a former wrestler of the university that is now speaking out saying that he had been a friend of jim jordan's and his family for 40 years, that in march he had the courage to step forward. he e-mailed and called initially, jim jordan, to say, look, i will come out and tell them that he -- i was sexually molested by the doctor. he says, jim jordan, said please don't involve me. he e-mailed him after that. he says that in the locker room that everyone during the time including jordan knew about doc as they called him. if you went to see doc in the room for one of your injuries that he would touch you inappropriately, molest you. here's more of what michael disabato said to me minutes ago. >> he was a serial groper of our bodies including our testicles.
it is unfortunate. i considered jim a friend. but for whatever reason he's made the decision to deny something that was absolutely happening. he had knowledge of it. i have personal knowledge that he -- his locker was next to doc strauss locker in the locker room. >> congressman jordan's office has a very swift, fast and defiant response to all of this. they say, quote, congressman jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about abuse and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at ohio state. he has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask because if what is alleged is true the victims deserve and a full investigation and justice. >> some very, very serious and troubling accusations. cnn's jean casarez, thank you for that. we appreciate it. coming up, an update on the
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brian, the rescuers face big challenges before they can get everyone out. but everybody around the world is talking about these kids and how they're going to get them out. >> everybody's talking about it. jim, they do face some major challenges, but thai officials are confident tonight. they say they can keep those boys healthy as they prepare for the rescue operation, and they're not in a rush. but it's just the start of the rainy season in thailand, and the flooding in those caves could get worse. so veteran rescuers we spoke to say, this is an urgent operation and their warning it's very dangerou dangerous. the elation of finding 12 boys and their soccer coach alive and tempered tonight by concerns over what is sure to be a complicated rescue operation. they're trapped more than a mile inside a cave in thailand. >> we're coming. it's okay. many people are coming. >> the cave's flooded because it's monsoon season. it may stay flooded for months and more rain is coming.
thai authorities have tried pumping water out of the cave, have tried finding a natural opening at the top of the mountain. none of it has worked so far. thai military officials tonight say the boy's rescue could involve a long, damgs operation dangerous operation. >> they might have to dive. if they dive, we will have to a huge a full mask, which we are waiting for now. >> but if the boys have to be taught how to learn how to dive. she's pulled bodies out of the wreckage of the "u srks srkss c skoaly says it may be exceedingly difficult to teach these boys between the ages of 11 and 16, how to navigate a narrow, pitch-black panel, where the water has no surface.
>> it's very easy to lose your or y orientation, not know what is up, and what is down, and become completely lost. then a diver can start flailing. you can lose control of your equipment. you can lose control of your breathing, which is the main thing. and then you end up drowning. >> reporter: scholley says it's likely each boy will be accompanied by a rescuer, but even trained rescue divers might be trouble guiding the boys what could be swift water currents with stalagmites and stalactites which their equipment could get caught on. >> we tuck the hoses into our equipment, tape them down and that sort of stuff. but there's always a chance a little tiny loop can get stuck on something. >> these boys have been stranded inside the cave for more than ten days. food and water are being brought to them while they prepare for the rescue operation. but schollye says for some of them, the sapping of their
physical and emotional strength during this ordeal could affect the rescue. >> it's frightening in this environment not being able to see the surface. they're going to be scared, and that's going to chip away at their endurance during this long process. so that's going to play on how long they can survive in these conditions, as well. >> the dive expert who runs the operation which located the boys says one way to get them out might be to turn each boy into what he calls a, quote, inert package. that means the to restrict the movement of the boy's arms and legs, to negate the effects of panicking, if they panic, and just have his rescuer kind of pull him out while he's not moving. bobby scholley, our veteran diver says that could work, unless he has a breathing problem and he can't address it with his arms and legs and his diver can't see what's happening. that's one example of the complications they're going to face. >> very scary. and thinking to past rescue operations of this nature, can
they drill down somehow to these children in a way to pull them out. is that possible? >> it's a good question. experts say the technology and equipment does exist to do that, but it will all probably have to be airlifted to thailand and the group is located in a very small space inside that mountain, about a half a mile deep into the mountain and they're going to be difficult to find that way, so drilling a hole is problematic, as well. >> brian todd, we're all pulling for those kids and the rescuers there in thailand. breaking news next, new details in embattled epa chief scott pruitt's plan totous jeff sessions and become attorney general. more tonight on pruitt's direct appeals to president trump. we're drowning in information. where in all of this is the stuff that matters? the stakes are so high, your finances, your future. how do you solve this? you partner with a firm that combines trusted, personal advice with the cutting edge tools and insights
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happening now, breaking news. wanting justice, we're learning that embattled epa chief scott pruitt personally asked the president to carry out a stunning job switch. what did pruitt hope to accomplish by getting jeff session fired and taking over his job? backing the intelligence. a top republican directly contradicts the president's doubts about russia's election meddling, making the case in a new report that the intel agencies have been right all along. why is the senate intelligence committee releasing this information now? conspiracies and attacks. the president heads into the fourth of july holiday by launching new fireworks on twitter from harley davidson to iran, who he's targeting tonight. and survival. the rescue of a dozen trapped boys could take months as crews scrambling to form an escape plan. will the boys be forced to make a dangerous dive to save their own lives? we want to welcome